NEW DEHLI: Pakistan’s worst natural disaster in living memory might bring it closer to its estranged neighbour India after Islamabad decided to accept flood-aid from New Delhi.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told India’s NDTV television in an interview broadcast on Friday that Islamabad would accept India’s offer of five million dollars.
“I can share with you that the government of Pakistan has agreed to accept the Indian offer,” Qureshi said from New York, where he addressed a special session of the UN General Assembly called to boost aid for flood victims. “I think this initiative of India is a very welcome initiative.”
India had made the offer last Friday. Six days later, while Pakistan still contemplated whether or not to take the money, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh phoned his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani to urge him to accept the aid. The US had also urged Pakistan earlier this week to accept the Indian offer and not let rivalry stand in the way of helping its citizens in flood-ravaged regions.
Meanwhile the United Nations appears to have met its target of $460 million in immediate aid for Pakistan after the US and other nations significantly upped their pledges. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that member states have pledged more than $200 million in response to a fresh appeal for emergency aid.
“I want to thank governments for pledging more than $200 million to boost relief efforts,” he said in a statement a day after he told a UN General Assembly session on the floods that Pakistan’s worst natural disaster was “one of the greatest tests of global solidarity.”
“The generosity of countries and individuals will make a real difference in the daily lives of millions of people,” Ban added. “We must keep it up. Pakistan is facing weeks, months and years of need.”
Before the General Assembly meeting, Ban said donors had given half the sum the UN appealed for to provide food, shelter and clean water to up to eight million flood victims over the next three months. But Ban insisted all the money was needed now - and much more will be needed later.
After listening to speeches by high-level representatives of some 20 countries, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he was assured that the $460 million goal “is going to be easily met,” including “$100 million plus” from Saudi Arabia.
The European Union raised its pledge to more than $180 million. In addition, Britain said it would double its contribution to nearly $100 million, on top of $25 million in public donations, and Germany raised its aid to $32 million.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world and Pakistan faced a “defining moment”.
In a poignant video message, Clinton urged Americans and the world to reach deep into their pockets for Pakistan, saying, “In surveying the lives and landscape affected by this disaster, we see brothers and sisters; mothers and fathers; daughters and sons.” Clinton doubled US aid from $90 million to 150 million dollars, while Britain said it planned to double its contribution to more than 64 million pounds ($99 million).
The General Assembly adopted a resolution urging the international community to help Pakistan recover, as foreign donors belatedly rallied in support of the embattled nation.
The Asian Development Bank said it would provide $2 billion to repair roads, bridges, power lines, homes, schools, medical facilities and farm structures, and the World Bank has promised to lend $900 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2010.
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